Police: Funeral home worker befriended Coal Township widow, 82, stole $30K
COAL TOWNSHIP - Authorities allege a woman who was employed at a local funeral home used her position to befriend an elderly female before stealing $30,000 from the victim.
Heather Gober, 43, of 12 Pear St., Barnesville, was arraigned at 11:15 a.m. Monday on felonies of burglary, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property by Magisterial District Judge John Gembic III, who released her on $20,000 unsecured bail.
The charges were filed by Coal Township Detective Jeff Brennan in connection with a June 14 incident at the Springfield home of an 82-year-old woman, who police did not identify.
Gober, who was employed at Leonard J. Lucas Funeral Home Ltd., Shamokin, is accused of befriending the victim after her husband died and stealing $30,000 in cash from a strong box hidden in the widow's home.
The defendant, who turned herself over to authorities Monday morning, admitted to stealing the money and has already made full restitution to the victim, police said.
This is not the first time Gober, who is a licensed funeral home director, has been in trouble with the law.
She was charged by Lebanon police in March 2011 with six counts, including forgery and identity theft, in relation to an incident that occurred in November 2010, according to the Pennsylvania Unified Judicial System website.
In September 2011, Gober pleaded guilty to criminal mischief involving pecuniary (financial) loss and was sentenced to one year probation, a $500 fine and $822.50 in court costs, and was ordered to pay $50 in restitution.
Further details of the case were not available through the judicial website, and Lebanon police could not be reached Monday for more information.
As a result of that case, on March 14 of this year, Gober received a reprimand on her permanent record with the Pennsylvania State Board of Funeral Directors.
Lee Lucas, owner of Leonard J. Lucas Funeral Home Ltd., said, as of Monday, Gober is no longer employed. He said when she was hired in November, he checked on her funeral director's license and found it to be legitimate.
He said he was not aware of the reprimand issued in March until asked about it on Monday.
Cash in strong box
At Monday's arraignment, Gober politely answered several questions from Gembic regarding employment, bail and securing legal counsel. She was ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, Aug. 27, but that legal proceeding will most likely be continued.
Police said Gober was told by the victim that she had a strong box in which she placed a check that totaled $24,460 for the sale of her residence. Police said the victim never told Gober the cash was in the box, too.
The victim said Gober was the only person who knew the strong box existed. The victim told police Gober picked her up at 1 p.m. on the day of the alleged burglary and dropped her off at Mountain View: A Nursing and Rehabilitation Center along Trevorton Road for a visit. The victim said she did not return to her home until 5 p.m. The victim told police she believes the money was stolen while she was at the nursing facility.
One witness told police he saw Gober leaving the victim's home around the time of the theft, while another witness said he spotted a woman matching Gober's description exiting the home around the same time.
During an interview with police July 18, Gober denied stealing the money, but two days later, she contacted the victim and admitted to the theft. Gober told the victim she would make arrangements to repay her.
On July 29, Gober admitted to police she stole the strong box and money from the victim's home June 14. Upon exiting the home to take the victim to the nursing center, Gober said she unlocked the door. Gober told police she spent some of the money on furniture and a computer.
Police said the check in the strong box hasn't been cashed or recovered.